Friday 4th July 2014
Today I re-visited Yad Vashem. I had found my previous visit too short so wanted to see more. Also, I had been told that the items “outside” the Museum were worth seeing.
I went through the Museum and was again moved to tears by the horror of what was inflicted on the Jewish people. It is almost literally “unbelievable” that human beings could have done what they did to their fellow human beings, men, women and children. It is simply appalling. I guess that is why, even though they are distressing, memorials such as Yad Vashem are so important. They remember the victims. They report what happened. They show images, documents, personal stories, memorabilia. They ensure that we do not forget. Hopefully, they also admonish us never to repeat such horror.
On my previous visit, and again today, I was appalled at the widespread, systematic, ruthless, comprehensive, totalitarian attempt at annihilation of European Jewry (and others who were different or who opposed the Nazi regime).
However, something I had not reported sufficiently if at all in my previous post on Yad Vashem, I was also moved and inspired by the courage, bravery, uprightness, moral integrity and humanity of those who protected Jews at the risk of their own lives (and those caught doing so paid with their lives, along with those whom they had been protecting). They are rightly called the Righteous Among the Nations.
From one point of view, they were so few, only several thousands named, among the many millions who committed the atrocities, or collaborated, or turned a blind eye, of who remained silent. But from another point of view, given how ancient and deep was the prejudice against the Jews, how it was propped up and justified by false use of scripture, how it was reinforced and disseminated by Nazi propaganda and indoctrination and carried out under the threat and intimidation of Nazi terrorism, such that disregard for the Jews became the norm, taken for granted, a necessary purging of society, became a cult (I dare not use the word “culture”) of widespread denial and of industrialised death, it is surprising that there were so many righteous who withstood that deadly pathology, who stood up against it, who risked their lives, and often paid with their lives.
If you have not done so, I would encourage you to spend some time with the personal stories and other information about the Holocaust/Shoah on the Yad Vashem website: http://www.yadvashem.org It will be a harrowing experience, of the depths of human depravity and of the heights of human courage. It is only by facing the reality, by entering personally and deeply into the experience, that we can ensure that such horror never happens again, and that we will be inspired and have the courage to stand up for what is good, right and true.
However, as I write, I hear what I think are gunshots in the city area around me, hopefully firing warning shots into the air rather than aiming at people. There has been tension in the air since the kidnapping a couple of weeks ago and subsequent murder of the three Israeli teens and the snatching and murder of a Palestinian teen a couple of days ago. It is Ramadan when Muslims are fasting and attend the mosques in greater numbers, and the defence forces have been restricting the numbers of Muslims, of young people especially, gathering on the Temple Mount so as to reduce the possibility of their becoming unruly. There have been media reports of stone-throwing and retaliatory firing (you may have seen it on TV news and heard it on the radio) but no reported injuries.
Be assured that I feel very safe. I am not at all at risk. I have not seen any of these disturbances or unrest. It is localised, in the locality where the events took place, and in other “hotspots”, but it is not widespread. So one can walk around most places and not be affected in the least. I have seen a greater police and military presence in the streets, groups of twenty or more soldiers where previously there had been only two. I have seen riot vans parked at the side of the road. I have seen mounted police on horses ready for crowd control. I have seen barriers being set up and dismantled. But I have not seen any actual disturbance.
The fear and hostility that simmers beneath the surface and erupts in incidents of violence and provocation and retaliation and the cycles of retribution are testimony to the importance of Yad Vashem (and the Palestinians have their memorial places too). They remind us that we must learn to see the humanity of those whose religion, language, ethnicity, culture, way of life is different from our own. They are not our enemies. The “other” is our “brother”. They are our brothers and sisters.
We remember all the victims, on both sides, not so as to live out of woundedness, but so as not to inflict such woundedness on any other.
It seems the lesson has not yet been learnt! May we learn soon, before it is too late, and other holocausts are fired up.
May we remember, re-member, that is, put back together again the members of the human family. May we know that no human being is an alien, is lesser, is expendable. May we know that we are members of one another, family, that what happens to one happens to all. May we remember!
Shalom, Peace, Salaam!!!